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 British Columbia . Canada

Vancouver Skytrain System


Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) is situated on the west coast not too far from the U.S. border. The metropolitan area has about 2 million inhabitants. Vancouver hosted the 1986 World Expo.

The Vancouver Metro, called SkyTrain, is an automated metro system, similar to the VAL system of Lille and Toulouse. Since August 2009, there have actually been two systems, incompatible with each other, the older Expo/Millennium Line and the newer Canada Line:


   Expo Line  Millennium Line    

The Expo & Millennium Lines used to start in downtown Vancouver and served the southeastern neighborhoods of the metropolitan area. Expo & Millennium Lines run mainly on an elevated structure with trains every 2-5 minutes. In anticipation of the opening of a new branch from Lougheed o Coquitlam (previously known as the Evergreen Line), the service was restructured on 22 Oct 2016, with only the Expo Line now running from Waterfront towards the southeast, splitting into two branches at Columbia, while the Millennium Line operating between VVC-Clark and Lougheed Town Centre before its extension to Lafarge Lake-Douglas.

Station platforms are 80 m long, which allows 6-car-trains; SkyTrain normally operates 4-car mark II trains, and 4 or 6-car mark I trains. The average station distance is 730 m in the city centre area and 1750 m in other areas. All stations now have elevators, after Granville was retrofitted with one in 2006. In the beginning trains got names like Spirit of Victoria, Spirit of Vancouver, etc. For the inauguration of the second line a new type of train (mark II) was ordered with cars 17.3 m long (earlier stock 12.3 m) and three doors per side each 1.6 m wide (compared with two 1.2 m wide doors per side on original cars).

Until Oct. 2016, the total length of the first line, now referred to as the Expo Line, was 28.6 km (only 1.3 km in a former railway tunnel in downtown Vancouver - Burrard and Granville; plus a short tunnel around Columbia station in New Westminster), total travelling time is 39 minutes. With the branch to Production Way-University it now has a total length of 35 km (with 1.8 km being shared with the Millennium Line).

The second line, the Millennium Line opened in 2002 to connect Commercial-Broadway to Columbia via Lougheed Town Centre. The line is mostly elevated (800 m underground near Columbia station). Until Oct. 2016, both lines used to operate along a common stretch from downtown Vancouver (Waterfront station) to Columbia station. Construction began in Jan. 2004 on the remaining part of the Millennium Line, from Commercial-Broadway to the line's western terminus at Vancouver Community College (VCC). This section was opened in January 2006.

From the existing Lougheed Town Centre station, construction on a Skytrain branch to Coquitlam Centre was launched in early 2012 for completion in 2016. The 11 km Coquitlam route was named the 'Evergreen Line' in Dec. 2005. On 18 April 2008, TransLink and the BC Ministry of Transportation announced that the Evergreen Line would follow the 'northwest route' from Lougheed Station, elevated on North Road to Clarke Road, head into a tunnel from Clarke Road north of Como Lake Avenue, emerging at the bottom of the Clarke Road hill to run on an at-grade alignment adjacent to the Canadian Pacific railway line. It would then continue to the Ioco Road overpass where it would turn eastward, change back to an elevated guideway northward along the Lougheed Highway to Pinetree Way, and finally turn northward to a terminus just north of Douglas College in Coquitlam. Eventually, instead of creating a separate line, the Evergreen Line opened on 2 Dec 2016 as an extension of the Millennium Line (now 25.3 km) in a reconfigured overall network layout.

SkyTrain SkyTrain

SkyTrain SkyTrain


   Canada Line      

Canada Line - initially referred to as the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver line (RAV) (see map) began construction in late 2005. It opened on 17 Aug 2009, a few months ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The line is 19.5 km long, and extends from the Waterfront, down through Cambie Street, over the North Fraser River, and it branches from there letting you go westward to Vancouver International Airport, or southward to Richmond Centre. The line from Waterfront up to somewhere near Marine Drive -- which runs alongside the Fraser River -- is completely underground, while the line going over the river, to the airport, and to Richmond Centre is above-ground, as the soil in the area was not suitable for building a subway-like system. 20 2-car trainsets were delivered by Rotem; these are 41 m long, 3.6 m high and 3 m wide. The system is fully automatic, but technologically not compatible with the existing Skytrain Expo & Millennium lines.

SkyTrain SkyTrain

SkyTrain SkyTrain


   Other Rail Transport      

Apart from SkyTrain there is the West Coast Express, which only operates into Vancouver in the mornings and from Vancouver in the evenings (5 trains each direction).



03 Jan 1986: Waterfront - New Westminster full revenue service after weekend trial service since 11 Dec 1985 (21.4 km)
14 Feb 1989: New Westminster - Columbia (0.6 km)
16 March 1990: Columbia - Scott Road (2.5 km - including the 616 m Sky Bridge across Fraser River)
28 March 1994: Scott Rd - King George (4 km)
05 Jan 2002: Columbia - Braid (3.8 km)
31 Aug 2002:
Braid - Commercial Drive (15.4 km)
21 Nov 2003: Lake City Way station added
06 Jan 2006: Commercial Drive - VCC-Clark (0.8 km)
02 Dec 2016: Lougheed Town Centre - Lafarge Lake-Douglas (11 km)

17 Aug 2009: Waterfront - YVR-Airport/Richmond-Brighouse (Canada Line - 19.5 km)



A 6 km western extension of SkyTrain’s existing Millennium Line will be built from VCC-Clark Station along Broadway to Arbutus Street in the Vancouver Westside; possibly later extended by another 6 km to University of British Columbia. [Project Website]

A 16 km extension beyond King George in Surrey to Langley is planned. [Project Website]



Near Stadium station © John Day Skytrain MkII © John Day Production Way - University © Rob Chew Sapperton station © Rob Chew Commercial Drive station © Rob Chew

VCC-Clark station © Rob Chew Waterfront © J.Martínez Cuevas Commercial Drive station © C.Lee Canada Line test run © Ken Chow
Photos © John Day (1, 2), Rob Chew (3-6), J. Martínez Cuevas (7), C. Lee (8), Ken Chow (9)






   incl. Rapid Transit Projects

Vancouver Skytrain at Wikipedia

Canada Line at Wikipedia

NYC-Subway-Resources - Vancouver Page

Great Vancouver Rail Map from JohoMaps

Read your webmaster's personal impressions of the Vancouver SkyTrain system (July 2012)


 Canada Line Ride - Waterfront > YVR Airport
 Canada Line Ride - Richmond-Brighouse > Waterfront
 Expo Line - Waterfront > Production Way-University
 Millenium Line - Lafarge Lake-Douglas > VCC-Clark

near Nonaimo - © Matthew Huston Nonaimo station © Matthew Huston Nonaimo station © Matthew Huston

SkyBridge seen from New Westminster © Matthew Huston Scott Road © Matthew Huston New Westminster © Frank Rösel Waterfront  © Frank Rösel

Pictures courtesy of Matthew Huston (1-5) & Frank Rösel (6-7)


2007 © Robert Schwandl (UrbanRail.Net)